Where is Marco Polo

Human mind is a strange thing. It wants comfort of the modern day, yet, it wants to go back in time. We travel long distances to find adventure and end up staying in hotels that provide state-of-the-art facilities. Luxury resorts in a wild forests are thriving as they let the tourists be “comfortable” in the wildest of the place. There is nothing wrong in asking for comfort. And there is also nothing wrong in seeking adventure or rather change. Change from what we are used to experiencing every day of our lives. The question is “Why”. Why our mind is seeking the opposite of what we desire? Why do we travel when we seek to be at home?

Travelling to many countries over last years, and observing people who travel, I have asked myself often the very purpose of travelling in 21st century. We travel these days neither to discover new lands like Columbus did, nor to explore the other civilizations like Marco Polo did. Rather, everything seems to have already been discovered. Internet has taken away all the surprises in the travel. We virtually visit all the places in advance even before we book a flight. We already know everything about that place when we visit it. There is no getting lost, because our iPhone is constantly guiding us where we need to go. We have already read about the culture, history and people and have made up our minds of what they are. There is no excitement of experiencing the sense of place, because we are busy all the time in taking pictures (don’t remind me of those selfies) and sharing them on social media. After a few weeks, we hardly even remember the names of the places that we have visited.

800px-Marco_Polo_wikipedia

The purpose of travelling today is narrowed down to one – to take a break from a stressful routine life. We are not seeking change in our lives. We are just taking a break. We do not want the world to change. We are happy just the way we are and expect the world to be just the same. We do not challenge ourselves to explore. We are just there to experience what has already been explored.

I do not know if this is good or bad for our society. Because this is our society – a large part of it. I do not blame the technology. Internet is out there with overload of information and no one to read it, understand it or analyze it. We are here in 21st century with a possibility to know everything but yet we know nothing. This is the human mind which desires adventure and makes you book a flight to a country you have never set foot on. It is the part of our brain that feeds it with dreams, ideas and prepares us to live a life that has as many unknowns as it would be in travelling to an unknown place. But yet, there is another part of our mind which has been spoiled by 21st century luxuries. This is the part of our mind which we have tamed to not like surprises, to take no risks, to find that little comfort zone everywhere we go and to calculate the future and expect those calculations to be right.

Life is spontanteous. Then why not our travels? Why can’t we free that Marco Polo in each one of us? We have defined our travels from how we take a break from our life. Why can’t it be the other way around? Afterall, what are we taking break from? Isn’t that the first thing to change?

-Bansri Pandey (16th August, 2015)

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